Compagnie Didier Théron | Montpellier

Pulse, baby!

schrit_tmacher with „RESURRECTION“ in Aachen – again 10th to 12th in Fabrik Stahlbau Strang at 8pm

by Rico Stehfest

translated by Karoline Strys

The mayor of the city of Aachen genders quite contemporary and Didier Théron manages the grandiose step from „schrit_tmacher“ to pacemaker. And he also brought along three „cone seals“ who like AC/DC. The audience in the sold-out Stahlbau Strang is highly enthusiastic and celebrates this year’s festival edition with pleasure.

She certainly had the audience’s sympathy on her side when Aachen’s mayor Sibylle Keupen, in her brief greeting before the beginning of the performance by the French company Didier Théron, hinted that she would „abbreviate her thanks a little by name“ to various people. This was met with spontaneous applause as the audience had come precisely for the art. Yet, entirely without funding things are not as bright. So, all ears and through we go. “schrit_tmacher*innen-Festival,“ however, the generously heated steel building got a few degrees colder.

Forty minutes later, this anecdote was in anyway vain and forgotten. As then the excellent dancers Jee Hyun Hong, Camille Lericolais, Stanislaw Bulder and Artur Grabarczyk seriously had the chutzpah to leave the stage in the middle of the piece. And the soundtrack stopped. And the lights went out. Impudence. 

How can one be so careless? And this, above all, with a piece whose title „Resurrection“ should really call gravitationally at least for Mater Dolorosa and also shall not be stingy with pain and suffering. Unless it is a work by Didier Théron. There is nothing like a sophisticated, completely individual point of view. And there is not necessarily any need for great coding. There is rather a need for dramaturgy – which you really find right here.



On a completely empty stage, the choreographer positions his performers in a space that in itself has no characteristics. Théron creates these only by having his performers work through all conceivable constructions, entirely in the sense of active constructing. Against the backdrop of a projection that could be a macro of a dried up shrub, thin, bare straws, colorless, the four dancers craft a spatial geometry whose initial reductiveness is in principle misleading. The black, subtle costumes are luring you in the same direction: you expect gloom, heaviness and big, deep feelings. The necessary drama is provided by a barely bearable hum from the speakers. But this is not the only false track. The resurrection captured in the title does not seem to appear here at all. As dead as the branches in the background may seem, life pulsates on stage. And that in the literal sense: it doesn’t take long for a steady heartbeat to set in, a regular pulsation from the speakers that makes the tribune vibrate. And this pulse will not stop until the end. On the contrary. 

For quite a while, however, this pulse does not mean rhythm. The dancers practice poses, short, jerky movement sequences that, taken on their own, always seem to come across as outrageously undercomplex. Long pauses, tableau vivant again and again, hesitation, rest. You would not consider this dancing yet. It is first of all a measuring of dimensions, the space and the non-existing things inside of it. Discovering its potential, so to speak.

Until you finally wonder whether it may actually be that this one little hop came across as a bit silly. Can it be that it’s hilarious? The tempo finally picks up, the beat develops into more complex sound, which more and more morphs into something that may be considered as „music“. But what does it want? Again and again the performers seemingly hint at something yet do not act out anything. Small, sometimes tiny gestures unerringly create a mesmerizing suction. Everything finds its way, the rhythm is straightforward, reliable. Nevertheless, everything remains enigmatic. At times all four dancers look motionlessly at something invisible in the distance, sometimes they clown around like mechanical wind-up men in a „Ringelpiez mit Anfassen“ that makes you think you’re at clown school. They have a lot to do. But it remains unclear what that is.



 One may almost overlook how expressionless the faces remain the whole time. Where are the emotions? Inside of them? In the audience? The performers do indeed lie down on the floor again and again and lift the individuals up to the sky with their combined forces. But what form of resurrection it is shall remain a mystery. An absolutely fascinating one.

Théron did not leave his audience with a knot in their brains, though. With his second piece, „Terre,“ he solved all the confusions and delivered immense fun to all. Cécilia N’Guyen Van Long, Anaïs Pensé and Anaïs Vignon are allowed to perform with dignity from behind, from the top of the tribune, up to the front of the stage. As dignified as it can be when you find yourself in sort of a fatsuit that makes you look like a mixture of figures by Oscar Schlemmer and Niki de Saint Phalle. At least that’s the official explanation of the black monstrosities that promote the opposite of freedom of movement. However, where de Saint Phalle emphasizes the feminine in her anatomical exaggerations, here it seems virtually leveled and negated. This makes it possible to rethink the concept of bodyshaming. These three „cone seals“ do their best to appear as graceful as possible, supported by classical, meaningless orchestral sounds. Until they finally reach the stage and, to a loud tick-tack from the speakers, they can perform a bit of an overdone „hair-eography“ thanks to their long hair. Thereby it becomes clear that it is apparently possible to move amazingly agile in these clunky suits. And they do this with great dedication to a soundtrack with songs by AC/DC. This makes things a bit bumpy dramaturgically, because most of the songs are (or can be) simply strung together, yet it is not at all meant that seriously anyway. The three black monsters repeatedly find bizarre movement sequences to make the audience giggle. And when they slap their hands sideways against their hips, the suits start vibrating in such a manner that at first you think there is a picture malfunction. You rub your eyes in amazement, and then it is all over again, the fun. Then you just shouldn’t ask yourself what that was all about.